12 strategic short-cuts towards 8a
We have ranked 12 strategical and practical short cuts in order to push grades. Most
climbers focus on strength, i.e. in comparison it is easier to develop technical, tactical
and mental skill, which are in focus here. Give highest priority to the first four short
cuts as the biggest gains are found here. The last four are really supplementary studies
for reaching 8a and beyond. If this doesn't work our last trip is to go to Railay beach
1. Look down on your feet
Some 90 % of all climbers would improve simply by giving more attention to
footholds instead of handholds. A climber that is looking down will automatically
stay more relaxed, find better positions for the feet and body and also lean less
outwards than the one using the neck as a periscope. If you do this while training you
will quickly adapt. An easy way of checking the experience of a climber is
measuring how much of the time he spends looking downwards.
2. Avoid lactic acid - Lift your arms
If you could avoid lactic acid in your arms for a month or so, you would probably
advance one grade as your muscles could grow instead of being broken down by acid.
Top climbers (8a<) and other competitive athletes sometimes teach their muscles
to work with acid as a source of energy, but only for short periods, as acid in the long
run will break down their muscles. Warming up is the key to avoid acid. Very often,
the arms are flooded and the blood circulation decreases as a result of too hard
warming up. One trick of increasing the circulation is to lift and sink your arms when
Practical short cuts Strategical short cuts
1. Look down on your feet 2. Avoid lactic acid - Lift your arms
3. Breathing & Relaxation 4. As many metres/moves as possible
5. High point 6. Coaching & Memo in chalk bag
7. Finger positions 8. Safety & Fear
9. Pulsation holding 10. Recruiting muscles
11. Clipping later 12. Hang-dog
3. Breathing & Relaxation
'Breath' is something everybody has screamed or been encourage to do after some
desperate moves. With your breathing you can either get more relaxed or, with some
hyperventilation, more tensed and stronger. As yoga is based on breathing, so could
your climbing. Before you start, concentrate on your breathing. This is something you
have to practice. The best way of getting immediate relaxation on jugs after the crux
is to focus on your breathing. Count down from 10, shut your eyes and imagine you
are placed in syrup. Take some quick breaths and push through the next crux.
4. As many meters/moves as possible
During an hour a top climber do up to 100 metres per hour while other climbers fight
to get 20 - 40. In order to build a broad base and avoid acid and injuries one should
strive towards climbing easier grades. Some 50 % of your training should just be
based on easy climbing where you could focus on technical training.
5. High point
Most climbers struggle with pushing themselves mentally but instead of falling they
say 'Take' (I am one of these guys). By doing so you never learn where your limit is
and you never practice making moves under pressure. It is very easy to give up when
you realise this attempt won't take you to the top and you might be afraid of falling.
However, if you once (or sometimes) go for a high point, meaning that you fight as
long as possible including a jump to get chalk as high up as possible, you will get
surprised. By climbing on top-rope you will make it easier to push yourself and by
doing so you will take the advantage of training climbing under pressure.
6. Coaching & Memo in chalk bag
We think most climbers would gain from being coached while redpointing. This
person should pep talk but also remind you of certain things like; Breathing, Finger
positions etc. You could also put a memo symbol in your chalk bag like a coin or a
stone which symbolises Breathing or Looking down. It is very easy to, once you have
started to climb, getting into the zone and forgetting all your tactics.
7. Finger positions
The key to do the last moves is often to keep that closed crimp position. As you get
more tired and lands on the last holds with open hand, you have to stop to adjust to the
crimp position before you do the next move. This is almost impossible to do as a
routine so here you want to hear your friend scream - Criiiimp!
Do you trust your partner 100%. If not, you will instinctively feel that something
could happen when you?re standing there shaking with you feet well above the last
bolt. By doing some short falls you will be a better team and your climbing will be
better. Tell him that you want him to say ?? I got you, come on!?
9. Pulsation holding
This is very hard to learn quickly but it's nevertheless one the best ways to improve
your endurance by avoiding acid (pump). Your heart tries to pump out fresh blood
more than once every second. As you hold a hold for some seconds the circulation is
hindered. Try to pulsate your holds often even if only for a fraction of a second to
keep the blood flowing. By training this technique you will quickly get a much
better endurance compared to simply working your muscles.
10. Clipping later
Let's say you do five hard moves before reaching a jug and the clipping position. If
you immediately, with high tension, put in the quick-draw and the rope it is like doing
seven hard moves before you rest. Instead, strive towards relaxing (see short cut
3) first and chalk later, with low tension, then make the clip and you have just saved
There are many tricks how to hang-dog from bolt to bolt. With a good technique, or a
clip-stick, you will increase the actual climbing time instead of just being frustrated
from not getting to the top of a climb. (We are preparing an article with some hang-
12. Recruiting muscles fibres
Most of you do have to do some 30 minutes of climbing and some maximum moves
until you have recruited all your muscle fibres. Once you start practicing and maybe
hang-dog the route it is very easy to loose self-confidence as you don't feel that strong
in the beginning. Don't start telling everybody that you feel weak or that it is bad
conditions. Instead, recruit your muscles. If you are a slow starter you have to be like
a robot (with no feelings) in the beginning of each climbing day.
When you have done a personal record it is very important to state that you think it
was a hard climb, which suited you perfectly, you are in good shape and you have got
some tips from 8a and that you have been training hard lately. Otherwise it is easy that
you will start hearing downgrading rumours ;)